Remember, You’re The Titans

I imagine most of you have seen the movie Remember the Titans about a public school in Virginia the 1970’s being desegregated and how its football team became a vehicle for positive change.

I watch it every chance I get. There’s a hopeless romantic still inside of me that likes a feel-good movie that actually is based on real events. That and my aunt who is an actress is in it

It’s rather neat to see her on screen and say, “Hey, I know her.”

titans

We play a clip from the movie before football games that has Denzel Washington’s voice giving a pep talk to his players.

It sounds cliche’, I know. But if you remember, that was an actual team from an actual small town in the south and the local public school was a fundamental part of those kinds of small towns like West is to Clemmons.

West Forsyth is one of those few remaining schools in our area that can be claimed by a small town. It has been that way for three generations. All of 27012 feeds into West along with other surrounding areas of course.

So what happens at West happens to the town. And we are the Titans.

If you remember, the team from the movie as they walked into the stadium after warmups had a dance that brought them together.

Sound familiar?

And that team became family, albeit in a relatively short time.

You ladies are a family. Anyone who watches you play sees how you pick each other up, celebrate each other, and refuse to let setbacks keep you from achieving. And you instinctively understand that the power of the team as a whole is more than the sum of the individual parts put together.

Any competitor would have been disappointed in circumstances that would lead to having to play away from a home field advantage on campus, but what you ladies proved this past Thursday is that when you are with family, you are always home.

You ladies are family, so no matter that color of jersey you wear, you are the home team.

There will be a lot of people from your hometown traveling 111 miles to come see you play tonight on your “home” field. There will be parents, friends, coaches, students, teachers, and others who may have never kicked a soccer ball in their lives there to watch you play.

And there will be many more following from their homes via social media, texts, phone calls, internet, etc., but expect a crowd there at our Raleigh “home” field.

There are not many public schools in the state outside of metropolitan areas that have caused powerhouse programs to travel all the way to Clemmons, NC to play in state championship playoffs for multiple sports.

Tonight is no different. Even though the other team is traveling ten short miles, they still have to get into a vehicle and drive over to a field that tonight for a few hours will actually be part of the 27012 zip code – your home field to be exact.

There is no need to tell you that the other team will “remember the Titans.” They’ll know. You will leave it all on the field tonight.

Just remember that you are the Titans and there will be a very large family gathering tonight.

At our home field.

With the coolest flag of any school.

Your Yuck, His Yum – A Musing With Malcolm

Mustard and Ketchup

Batman and Robin

Coffee and Cream

Beans and Rice

Baseball and Hot dogs

West Forsyth Titans and 111 mile drives to Raleigh

Raleigh lawmakers and public school advocacy – well, maybe not

and…

Pancakes and Ranch Dressing?

At least to this little man.

​We are sitting at a restaurant, specifically Stratford Station Grill. Malcolm loves seeing George. Great food and they treat my kids like their own.

He gets pancakes. I get chicken souvlaki with a side salad. He has syrup. I have ranch.

He sees an opportunity and makes it work for him.

I didn’t need all of the ranch anyway.

 

111 Miles To Raleigh – The Prophetic Words of a Football Coach

I am convinced that some of the most unsung heroes in our schools are our coaches. They not only teach students inside of classrooms; they teach them outside of classrooms.

Those same coaches take the blame when teams do not win or compete as they are expected to. They deflect credit when teams win.

But they always talk about “team.” They use collective pronouns – “we,” “us,” “our.”

And they motivate preparing students not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and in many cases spiritually.

It happened today. Our girls soccer team was displaced from their home field in a state semifinal game in the state playoffs. Weather canceled two previous scheduled games and field conditions dictated that we go play on a neutral field fifty miles away against a very good team on a different turf.

What does a good coach do? Finds a way to motivate players and keep players focused on the task at hand. That coach finds the obstacles, removes them, and then tells the players to execute. He gets them time on a different surface. He keeps them focused when delays occur. He puts the team in situations where they can learn and prosper.

Sometimes he gets a guest speaker to help motivate them.

So in steps the football coach, a colloquial master who understands that words placed at the right time can be heard for a long time afterwards.

He tells the ladies that it’s about “111.”

“Think about it. 111.”

“It’s 111 miles from here to Raleigh.” Raleigh is the final goal. It’s where one plays for the state championship.

wstoraleigh

If they take care of the business at hand, then they get to travel that 111 miles to play for a ring. No need to be on the home field. The field they were to play on was the same dimensions as the home field with “two small goals on each end.”

“You just got to put the ball in their goal more times.” 11 girls on the field at a time working for just 1 more goal than the other.

Then 111 miles.

And so after a regulation game, two overtime periods, “sudden death,” and penalty kicks these young ladies get to go to Raleigh.

To be accurate, that’s 2 forty-minute halves, 2 ten-minute overtime periods, 2 five-minute sudden death periods, and a non-timed penalty kick session. Let’ call that penalty kick session the last minute.

40+40+10+10+5+5+1 = 111 minutes

Miles from Clemmons to Raleigh = 111

Players on the field at one time = 11 working as 1

In that crowd were the head coaches and assistant coaches of at least 6 different sports to support those ladies. If numbers serve correct, approximately 10% of the teaching faculty was at that game on a night before exams started.

And they would have stayed for another 111 minutes if needed.

I wish some lawmakers in Raleigh could have seen that before they started measuring how good public schools are in their eyes.

But there is one measurement I can surely tell folks in Raleigh is hard and true.

111.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dodgeball – Another Thing Betsy DeVos Is Really Bad At

In defending Donald Trump’s horrific budget proposal today for education on Capitol Hill, Betsy DeVos proved that she had not really learned anything about giving straightforward answers to deservedly pointed questions since her historic confirmation hearing.

The video below is from an exchange with Rep. Katherine Clark of Mass.

It is eye-opening.

Judge for yourself.

 

 

I Would Like to File a Missing Person’s Report For Our State Superintendent of Public Schools

As the North Carolina House readies its release of a budget proposal for the next two fiscal years, it bears repeating that public education is the number one expenditure of the state. That’s not a surprise. According to the state constitution, it is designed to be the top expenditure. In fact, it’s that way for the almost every state in the country.

A couple of weeks ago, the state senate released its budget proposal. It called for a 25% cut in the operating budget for the Department of Public Instruction.

It would make sense that the leader of the public school system in the state be one of the first to speak out about what the General Assembly plans to allocate for schools and the operating body that helps to run the state system.

Be reminded that on Thursday, January 5th, 2017, just days after he took office, Mark Johnson stated the following at his first State Board of Education meeting:

“Every day that we don’t take bold actions for our students is a day that our students lose. Every day that we don’t take bold actions for our teachers is a day that our teachers lose. Complacency is the antithesis of urgency, so I ask that we act with urgency and not be complacent in anything that we do. If we don’t act with urgency, we will continue to betray students and we will continue to lose teachers and have difficulty retaining them and recruiting them.”

The operative word there is “urgency.” Johnson really gives it renewed vigor juxtaposing it with the word “complacency.”

In that same prepared statement, he also said,

“We have a lot of issues and challenges facing us. We have to own them. We have to own that we need to do something about testing. We have to own that there are students graduating from our schools that we are giving diplomas to that are not prepared for college or the workforce. We are the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. It is our job to own those challenges and find solutions. We must be innovative to find solutions.”

In that slice of rhetoric, he identified himself as part of a whole – “we.” And he talked about the “we” being the “Department of Public Instruction.”

So, after more than five months of a “listening tour,” the words “urgency,” “ownership,” and “we” seem to have morphed into something else. A lot can happen in five months, because five months is literally half of a school year.

At this time of the year, we have tests. Students have their “achievement” measured. Schools get “graded.” Teachers get “evaluated” mostly on how people do on these tests – the ones that Mark Johnson says “we need to do something about.”

And we have this budget that literally decimates the very construct he heads – the “we” he so passionately talked about in January.

Actually, this is Mark Johnson’s first test.

And how has he responded?

Take a look at Alex Granados’s article on EdNC.org entitled “Funding cuts to Department of Public Instruction in question” from May 23 (https://www.ednc.org/2017/05/23/25-percent-cut-dpi-maybe-not/).

He reports,

“Meanwhile, while the Senate is asking for a 25 percent cut to DPI and eliminating eight positions outright, it is also spending about $432,000 in recurring dollars to fund five positions that directly report to the State Superintendent — the person that oversees all of the positions in the Department of Public Instruction.

That person, Mark Johnson, was critical of the Department of Public Instruction during last year’s election campaign.

Sounds about as antithetical as “urgency” and “complacency,” does it not?

But here is the telling part.

Attempts to contact Johnson for comment on the Senate’s plans for DPI were unsuccessful. A member of Johnson’s staff said he would be unavailable all week for interviews.

So much for “urgency.”

So much for “we.”

So much for “bold.”

So much for “ownership.”

So much for “action.”

And when the words “unsuccessful” and “unavailable” become associated with the leader of the public school system, then it does not take a lot to figure out how well his test results will be.

But don’t worry. His score will surely be “curved” by those in control in the General Assembly.

have you seen johnson

Two Mandatory Courses For Sen. Chad Barefoot’s Ridiculous Replacement for Governor’s School

If you remember, the recent North Carolina Senate budget included a provision offered by Sen. Chad Barefoot to do away with more liberal arts opportunities for our students and replace those prospects with state funded “camps” to teach students how to legislatively run the state in the same manner as the current powers that be.

Amendment #2 to Senate Bill 257 proposes to establish a “Legislative School For Leadership and Public Service” using the very funds that would have financed Governor’s School starting in 2018-2019 (https://ncleg.net/Applications/BillLookUp/LoadBillDocument.aspx?SessionCode=2017&DocNum=4282&SeqNum=0) .

Actually, it could be called a “Legislative School for Gerrymandered Boroughs and Public Policy to Promote Total Discrimination,” but why split hairs?

I hope that Sen. Barefoot makes sure to include a couple of prerequisite courses for those lucky students fortunate enough to use taxpayer money to learn from his creation.

They should learn their shapes and how to draw well in a gerrymandering district redrawing course. For instance,

12th

No. That is not an internal organ. It is not a paramecium. It is not an ink blot. It is not a lake on a map. It is a real shape.

And the shape is called “Gerrymander.” Students at the “Legislative School for Gerrymandered Boroughs and Public Policy to Promote Total Discrimination” use shapes like this to help draw maps of voter districts.

See how it looks on a real map? Looks just like the 12th congressional district. It somehow connects Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High-Point, Charlotte, and multiple sites in between in a way that only crafty politicians can do. In fact, this district was called the most gerrymandered in the nation (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/05/15/americas-most-gerrymandered-congressional-districts/?utm_term=.6a56823e620f).

12th2

There are more shapes. Some even represent parasites sucking the blood right out of the democratic process.

1st

Looks like a tick sucking out the blood of its victim, but in actuality, this is a shape called “Unconstitutional” and it can also be used on maps.

Like here in the 1st district in North Carolina.

1st2

Sen. Barefoot will also want to make sure to include a class for students at the “Legislative School for Gerrymandered Boroughs and Public Policy to Promote Total Discrimination” on crafting policy that will eventually be struck down in the legal court system or have judgement passed against it in the court of public opinion.

Think about the recent decisions by the Supreme Court concerning the gerrymandering of congressional districts.

Think about the recent decision by the Supreme Court to not “revive a restrictive North Carolina voting law that a federal appeals court had struck down as an unconstitutional effort to ‘target African-Americans with almost surgical precision’”(https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/15/us/politics/voter-id-laws-supreme-court-north-carolina.html?_r=0).

Think about other decisions in state and federal courts that have rejected legislation brought forth by Sen. Barefoot and his cronies like separation of powers, redrawing school board districts (Wake county), and removing existing teacher due-process rights.

And then of course, there is the infamous “Bathroom Bill” which cost North Carolina untold amounts of revenue and stains in reputation.

But that is no matter, because that’s what the “Legislative School for Gerrymandered Boroughs and Public Policy to Promote Total Discrimination” is supposed to do – keep North Carolina moving in the direction that Sen. Barefoot and his ilk has us moving.

Backwards.

To the past.

But please do not tell him that “Legislative School for Gerrymandered Boroughs and Public Policy to Promote Total Discrimination” has the initials LGBT in it.

He’ll probably want to make a new amendment.

Something Those Lawmakers in Raleigh Fail to See About Our Schools

I teach in a school of nearly 2400 students and am completing my twelfth year there.

My daughter is about to finish her freshman year. She lets me ride to school with her because it makes me cool. I thank her everyday for that.

Of course I follow our school’s sports teams. It is a source of pride for our school, our community, but more importantly, those are my students out there competing and learning about teamwork and perseverance.

But I also go to games to see other students support their peers, their friends, their siblings, their neighbors, their fellow Titans. And I went to one last night. We won. I looked forward to reading about it in the paper the next day.

My family gets an actual copy of the Winston-Salem Journal every day. It’s our newspaper. Journalism is important to us. It supports the community.

And a particular clause from the lead sports story caught my eye this morning (http://www.journalnow.com/sports/prepzone/west-forsyth-girls-soccer-beats-myers-park-in-ot-advances/article_b8b65ee9-e569-541b-b64e-82f0b738d139.html) :

“who was mobbed on the field after the game by the large student section in attendance” 

The game was a girls soccer game, specifically a fourth round state playoff game against a team that had surrendered only three goals the entire year up to that game and had only lost one time all year.

Aside from the high level of play on the field, the amount of students at the game was amazing.  The cheering, the chanting, the urging, the encouragement. A victory in overtime.

Students jumping on the field to celebrate the accomplishment of a team representing a school.

I wish some folks in Raleigh could have seen that and tried to measure what that could actually mean.

But there was so much more involved.

What if I told you the number of AP tests taken by the ladies on the team that just won a chance to play in the final four of the state?

What if I told you the amount of academic scholarship money the seniors on that team had won already?

What if I told you that some of the students who rushed the field do not even play a sport but are involved in other ways at school that are just as celebrated?

What if I told you that 500 yards away in the Performing Arts Center a dance concert was being performed at the same time that included over 350 students dancing to a sold-out theater of 800 where just as many students were attending supporting their peers and friends as parents and family members?

What if I told you that at that very moment the boys track and field team was literally finishing winning their first ever state championship in Greensboro by the slimmest of margins?

What if I told you that one of the head coaches of the state championship track team is also the head of the art department that consistently has multiple students win gold key awards each year? What if I told you that the other head coach was our school’s teacher of the year? Or that one of the assistant coaches is a North Carolina Teaching Fellow? Or that the other assistant coach works with special needs students?

What if I told you that the head girls soccer coach on the day of the third round playoff game turned in all of his materials for National Board Certification, one of the more rigorous processes a teacher can undergo? His assistant happens to be the AP Calculus teacher and his students just took their exam a few days ago. Some were on that soccer field. The other assistant coach happens to have a son in one of my AP classes.

And earlier that day before the soccer game, I was putting together some background templates for the literary magazine for this year that will include the best art and literary work of our students. And like every other year, that track coach will send me amazing work, except his finger will be heavier with a new ring.

And after I post this, I will read a draft of an article by a student writing for the school newspaper about how Governor’s School has been defunded in the new NC Senate budget. She went to Governor’s School this past summer. She’s also the editor of the school newspaper.

She was also on that soccer field last night.

As a player.

One of two on the team who went to Governor’s School.

And by the way, my daughter was in that dance concert that occurred at the same time as the soccer game.

But I saw it Wednesday. They “packed the house” for three nights in a row.

Measure that Raleigh.

immeasurable

Go Titans.

 

 

What State Superintendent Mark Johnson Said About…

… the North Carolina Senate proposing to cut the operating budget of the Department of Public Instruction by 25 percent.

 

NOTHING

 

…the fact that the state Senate’s budget proposal actually lowers the amount of money spent per pupil in the state.

 

NOTHING

 

 

… the fact that state GOP senators took monies from educational initiaives in rural districts that voted in democrats to the general assembly.

 

NOTHING

 

 

… the fact that the state Senate is defunding Governor’s School.

 

NOTHING

 

The only thing I have heard from Mark Johnson is his message to teachers in a prepared video during Teacher Appreciation Week.

 

When the leader of the public school system in the entire state does not speak out on the very actions that are jeopardizing that system, then that lack of words screams complicity and a lack of willingness to stand up for public schools.

And for a person who entered elected office with word “urgency” flowing from his lips, it would seem that the state superintendent would be the first to speak out on what happened in the General Assembly this week.

 

 

The North Carolina Senate’s Education Budget and The Rise of “Pathologia Boven Excrementum”

NC_General_Assembly

“Frankly, we believe a better use of tax dollars is to move those from an unaccountable bureaucracy and into the classroom where those dollars will actually benefit students.” – Sen. Chad Barefoot, May 17th, 2017 (http://www.wral.com/senate-proposes-cutting-8-state-education-staffers-including-42-year-employee/16707728/).

The above was stated by Barefoot in response to questions as to why the recent NC Senate budget proposal calls for a 25 percent cut to the operating budget for the Department of Public Instruction and the elimination of eight positions in state education offices.

This is also the same budget that actually according to an NEA report is reducing the amount of money our state will spend per student.

“NEA’s report also found that North Carolina is projected to be ranked 43rd in the nation in per-pupil spending. It ranked 42nd last year. North Carolina is projected to spend $8,940 per student, down from $8,955 the prior year” (http://www.wral.com/nc-ranks-35th-in-nation-for-teacher-pay-ranked-41st-last-year/16693105/).

That certainly puts Barefoot’s mantra of “The money should follow the child” into perspective (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2015/09/23/bill-sets-up-charter-schools-to-receive-funds-for-services-they-dont-provide/).

But of course Barefoot’s explanation is nothing more than a political form of “Pathologia Boven Excrementum” which is a euphemistic way of saying that lawmakers like Barefoot may have reached a point where they truly believe the very lies they continuously spout about prioritizing public education.

Ironic that much of that tax money Barefoot claims to be saving from “unaccountable bureaucracy” to make sure that money “reaches classrooms to benefit students” actually has been tagged by Barefoot and his ilk for other forms of “unaccountable bureaucracy” and will never “reach classrooms to benefit students.”

Consider the Opportunity Grants that have not been shown to increase student achievement in comparable measures for students who use them. Barefoot was a sponsor of Senate Bill 862 that called for more money for those vouchers.

And these voucher are anything but transparent and free from proper oversight. Just read Duke University’s report:  https://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/School_Vouchers_NC.pdf. Furthermore, they almost all go exclusively to religious-based schools.

Consider then the new “super-voucher” bill, SB603. Dr. Diane Ravitch, probably the foremost voice in educational history and reform research, even shared reasons why such a bill would be disastrous to public schools – https://dianeravitch.net/2017/05/13/an-urgent-message-to-the-citizens-of-north-carolina/.

She mentions potential for fraud and lack of accountability. It also seems odd that it would alienate children who were not able to get the “super voucher” who remained in traditional public schools that were receiving less money because of the senate’s budget.

Now that’s making sure the money is following the child. Not. It’s just replacing “unaccountable bureaucracy” with “unaccountable reform.”

But Barefoot is no stranger to “unaccountable reform” movements. His championing of the Achievement School District has still not spurred any traction in saving targeted schools.

Maybe another fact to consider when listening to Barefoot’s recent fit of “Pathologia Boven Excrementum” comes when he tries to explain that the eight positions being eliminated were in and of themselves part of the “unaccountable bureaucracy.”

Why? Because the same budget also calls for this:

unnamed2

Actually, this sounds like Barefoot is simply replace “unaccountable bureaucracy” with “bureaucracy loyal to him and his cronies.”

Some of the eight positions that were eliminated in this act of “Pathologia Boven Excrementum” are from the office of the state board of education, the very same people who are fighting against some strange proposals to shift power to the office of the new state superintendent, Mark Johnson in a bill called SB4 that was constructed in a special seesion at the end of the 2016 calendar year to safeguard against a new democrat governor.

Ironic then, that Barefoot talks about ““unaccountable bureaucracy” when another part of the senate budget calls for this:

unnamed1

That’s for Johnson to fight the state board over that power in SB4 on which Barefoot was quoted as saying something about the role of bureaucrats.

Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, said lawmakers created the bill to clarify the constitutional role of the superintendent. “I can tell you from personal experience that the superintendent needs more administrative control over his department” (http://www.wral.com/state-board-of-education-chair-house-bill-17-raises-significant-legal-concerns-/16357128/).

Clarifying a constitutional role? Giving money to a neophyte in education to get more power over public school monies? Slashing the Department of Public Instruction’s budget by a quarter and still lowering per pupil expenditures? Giving more money to unaccountable vouchers? Championing reforms with horrible track records?

And he wants to call it “a better use of tax dollars” because it is supposedly moving money “into the classroom where those dollars will actually benefit students.”

That’s willful display of hogwash, nonsense, crap, rubbish, poppycock, bunk, piffle, drivel, baloney, codswallop, blather, gobbledygook, and prattle.

It’s “Pathologia Boven Excrementum”.

“Suffer the Children” – The Willful Ignorance of the North Carolina Senate

suffer

Matthew 19:14 in the King James Version of the Bible states,

“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

It is a verse that combines two very specific words: “suffer” and “children.”

The KJV was produced over 400 years ago under the direction of the monarch who followed Elizabeth I to the throne of England, a woman who ushered a golden age for her country and launched its exploration into the new world patronizing the likes of Sir Walter Raleigh for whom our state named its capital.

Interestingly enough, the word “suffer” in that context means “permit.” Jesus was instructing his disciples to allow the children to come unto him.

In the Raleigh, North Carolina of today the words “suffer” and “children” have been often combined.

Except, “suffer” means something totally different and something totally non Christ-like.

In this modern context, “suffer” means to subject to something bad or painful. And what has been revealed this week in the North Carolina Senate’s budget proposal certainly is adding suffering to many children.

This is the same governing body that refused to expand Medicaid to many low-income families that have children thus negating their access to preventative healthcare.

And while bragging about a state surplus in revenue while “serving” a population where over %20 of the children lives in poverty, the NC Senate proposed the following according to NC Policy Watch’s Brian Kennedy:

As we wrote about last week, the Senate budget seeks to permanently prevent North Carolina from providing food assistance to low-income families with children through a process known as broad-based categorical eligibility (CAT EL).

A special data request to the Department of Health and Human Services finds that eliminating CAT EL would strip food assistance from more than 133,000 low-income North Carolinians, 51,345 of whom are children who will also no longer receive free or reduced cost school lunched.

Thirty-six percent of the households that will lose food assistance have children, 28 percent support elders, and 23 percent are households with disabled persons.

What is most egregious about this provision is that SNAP is completely federally funded. The elimination of CAT El would result in ZERO cost savings to the state (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2017/05/15/nc-senate-budget-strips-food-assistance-children-families/#sthash.5GQaO9W7.dpuf).

It should also be noted that the same senate budget proposal also LOWERS North Carolina’s ranking in per pupil expenditure from 42nd last year to 43rd this year according to figures reported by WRAL (http://www.wral.com/nc-ranks-35th-in-nation-for-teacher-pay-ranked-41st-last-year/16693105/).

And add to that, there was this as reported by thinkprogress.org’s Lindsay Gibbs:

At 3:07 a.m. on Friday morning, North Carolina Senate GOP leaders rushed through a budget amendment that stripped education funding for teaching assistants and STEM programs in districts led by Democrats, cut funding to provide fresh produce to food deserts, reallocated money that was supposed to go to an arts museum and a downtown revitalization project, and eliminated a position that works to secure federal aid for disaster relief.

It appears the amendment wasn’t passed to achieve specific policy goals though, but rather as an act of political retribution after a prolonged and contentious budget negotiation in the state’s senate (https://thinkprogress.org/north-carolina-senate-gop-targets-children-who-live-in-democratic-districts-37e03adae03d).

So there are actions that affect the health of children. And there are actions that affect the food sources for children. And there are actions that affect the education for children.

That’s a lot of suffering and children, but not the kind of “suffering” Christ seemed to be talking about.

Ironic that many of those same state senators profess Christ as their savior and moral compass.

But professing Christ and acting like Christ can be two completely different things.